Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Tuesday, January 29

Quote of the week.

(Yeah, i know I promised more on binding and loosing - it's coming but I've been too busy to write it. In the meantime, here's this....)

I work in a civil engineering office. Most of our work revolves around plans, maps, etc. The team I am part of specialises in hydraulics, working out water levels and flows in various channels through sewage treatment plants. Our latest project involves visits to about thirty sites around our region, and these visits are to be distributed among the team members. Normally work is shared out by the team leader. She is a chartered engineer, an expert in the field. She excels at the technical aspects but is also a good manager. But when it comes to sharing out these sites geographically between the team members, she says “I don’t do maps; I’m a woman” and walks away.

Thursday, January 24

Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell, Book Review

Velvet Elvis – Repainting the Christian Faith
Rob Bell

I bought this book when I was at the Excel men’s conference at the Abundant Life Church in Bradford.

I dipped into it in the bookshop – and it burned my fingers and it burned my soul. I knew I had to buy it. But I also knew that it was a deep book, which would challenge my faith. I wasn’t ready for that challenge at the time. You don’t set off fireworks in an explosive factory – and I had to wait until I could read it in a way that would enhance my faith, not wreck it. (I am adopting the same principle with “Hail, Holy Queen” by Scott Hahn – I haven’t dared lift it off my shelf since 2003)

So, now I have read Velvet Elvis.

I plucked up the courage, picked it up, opened the cover, and was immediately swallowed by it. I had to emerge occasionally – work, food, toilet, supervising kids, etc, but spent most of the time sitting on the step next to bookshelf with my nose between the pages – totally captivated. When I did emerge for the chores, I kept telling my sons “you must read this book”, and telling my wife all the things I had been reading.

To give you a clue as to how important I think this book is, I am thinking of changing my "Bullets of truth" column on the left there as a result of things Rob says.

Now, in all this, I also have to be frank and admit that it does [in my view] tail off towards the end. For me the better stuff is at the start.

Here is a sample of stuff I have picked up.

(SPOILER WARNING – Rob Bell tells it much better than me – read the book)


If you build your faith like a wall in which the doctrines are the bricks, when one brick is removed the wall falls down. But if you use the analogy of a trampoline in which the doctrines are springs, when one is removed you can still jump.

Similarly, the brick wall example requires your church to be full of people who think exactly the same – the walls then become lines of division and dispute. But a trampoline is a place where you can invite anyone – yes anyone – to jump with you as you explore God together.

Jesus the Rabbi

Jesus was not a Christian. He was an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. This leads on to loads of really good insights, especially ‘binding and loosing’ (see below).

The Gates of Hell

This refers to the worship of the god Pan at Caesarea Philippi, and about how the church will triumph over paganism, sexual immorality, and the trends of society.

Binding and Loosing

Whoa! This is a biggie, for me. Subject of my next post!


I think Rob lost me a bit on this one. He is so busy redefining heaven and hell, and redirecting evangelism (hence my possible changes to my 'Bullets of Truth'), that while I am clear and in agreement with him over heaven, I’m not sure what he thinks about future hell and if/why anyone goes there. Not sure if this is because he is not sure himself, or just didn’t explain it well, or if I just missed what he was saying.


I was very glad that I read this book. I think everyone else should too. It expanded my mind. It changed my mind. It challenged me. Buy it. Read it. Cogitate on it.

Tuesday, January 15


So, after my recent discussions with my Catholic colleage, which had been leading me towards Rome, I have been having a new set of discussions with another colleage, who is Polish. She is currently in a Baptist Church, but while in Poland was in a 'Pentecostal' church.

The history of this church [my synopsis of what she said] is that it started as a charismatic group within the Catholic church. They started to study the Bible. Finding discrepancies (so far unspecified) between RC practice and the Bible, the group started to do what they understood the Bible to be saying.

The RC Bishop gave the group an ultimatum, that they should either return to the church's practices, or leave. So they left. They continued to exist as an independant charismatic group with a RC heritage but with Scripture as their plumb line.

At this time a Pentecostal (Elim I think) missionary came and started up a church in the town, but the Charismatic catholic group and the Pentecostal church soon realsised they were basically the same, and merged.

So, this moves me away from Catholisism. Confused as ever.

Wot, no posts?

Ok, so I've been busy, right?

Just occasionally I stop blogging and do someof the stuff that i am actually being paid for.

My current main project is due for completeion ASAP and all the mysteries have been resolved and all the chickens have come home to roost and been dealt with, and it's just time to compile my final report so that my reviewer cna rip it to shreds.

Thursday, January 10

New image in profile

I have changed my picture.

I used to have my son's Manga drawing, which I passed off as myself, but I began to feel that although it was a cheerful chappy it didn't reflect me.

The new picture is a fern leaf, growing out of the wall of Carlisle Castle.

The image shows the fern growing from a dark area into a light area - as Christ has lead me from darkness to light.

It grows from the castle to the sky - from prison to freedom.

It unfurls towards heaven to receive the blessing of God.

Ferns tend to spend winter all curled up, but come spring they respond to the season and spring up as something beautiful - as I respond to Christ he unleashes the potential in me.

So - out with Manga, in with the fern.

Wednesday, January 9

Builders back.

Our basement improvement project is back under way after a lull over the Christmas period. We now have plasterers being chased by joiners. Might even be done by the end of January!

Miracles DO happen

Since Christmas, I have been driving (mostly) within the speed limit - not by a massive effort of will-power, but simply becasue that is what I have wanted to do.

I believe this is God's answer to my prayers last year - he has changed my heart.

Tuesday, January 8

If I were to emigrate to New Zealand....

A recruitment company in New Zealand contacted me this morning. It set me dreaming…..

Q1 what kind of house would there be for my family?

A1 a quick internet search shows lots of possibilities.

Q2 what about spiders?

A2 a quick internet search shows there are two kinds that are venomous to humans……..ooooer!

Q3 what is the church like over there?

A3 a quick internet search brought up these two…

LIFE - looks like the New Zealand version of the Abundant Life Church in Bradford. Much froth and bubble: there may be some theological substance but it is well hidden behind slick presentation. I might get on well there if I was young and beautiful.

St Michaels – traditional church building, traditional robes, but keen to explore new liturgies. Very inclusive, uses Maori and English side by side, hosts the gay church and has links to Ekklesia. So open minded that anything gets in.

Now flick a coin to decide which you would put me in! Hopefully there is something more to my liking inbetween.

Anyway, it’s all a dream. I believe I still have work to do in my home church. They keep training Readers who then leave as soon as they’re licensed…I don’t want to be one of them! So here I stay. Unless………but that’s for a different post

Monday, January 7

More on divorce and remarriage - like I'm an expert or something!

Deut 24v 2 1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.

Verse 2 clearly permits the divorced woman to remarry, even though it seems she is the one guilty of adultery.

In fact, this whole business of 'giving her a certificate', is because the one holding the certificate needs to prove something - in this case the divorced woman needs the certificate to prove that the first man has relinquished his claim on her and she is available - for remarriage of course.

Taking this verse in conjunction with Matt 5:32 and 19:9, where the man divorces his wife becasue of adultery, he too is free to remarry - the exception applies. So, where there has been adultery, the 'one-flesh' bond has been broken, and both partners are free to remarry.

However, where adultery has not occurred, the 'one-flesh' bond still stands. therefore, although legally free to remarry, and in fact the phrase 'causes her to commit adultery' assumes/implies/acknowledges that in practice she has no option but to remarry, such remarriage would be adulterous.

Thus, if your marriage has been broken by adultery, you are free to remarry. But you can't use the divorce laws to legitimise a proposed wife-swap: it's still adultery, and you can't use divorce laws to legitimise serial monogamy: its still adultery, and if you do divorce without adultery, the one-flesh bond remains until death and further marriages or relationships are adultery.

And, where there has been adultery, although divorce is permitted, it is not mandatory. It is not even desirable.

God wants us to remain faithful to our first marriage partner, and to keep the marriage bed pure.

Manga portrait

In my profile I depict myself as a young, blond lad, in the Manga style. Well, actually, it was my son's drawing of a generalised male child, which I liked and adopted on this allegedly anonymous blog. I now realise that since I am middle aged, greying, and frequently unshaven, the only part of it that resembles me is that the hair is unbrushed. So - am i guilty of giving a false impression of myself? Am I the theological equivalent one of those men that pose as teenagers on the net to seduce young girls?

If I change the image, what sort of thing do you think I should go for: A photo? a picture of middle aged greying unshaven man with unbrushed hair? An abstract image? A cross? an icon of St Augustine? A devil? A rabid bible-basher? Answers on a postcard please. (or in the comments box)

Apocrypha (2)

So here is my interim conclusion on the Apocrypha.

I have tried to find out if anybody better educated than me knows whether or not Jesus and the disciples would have used the Apocrypha, but unfortunately my enquiries came to a dead end.

The following is therefore limited and probably full of errors, but here we go. Also, I shold link to all my sources but I've lost half and don't have time for the others. It's more feeling than substantiated theology.

  • The Masoretic text excludes the Apocrypha.
  • The Septuagint includes the Apocrypha.
  • The Masoretic text derives from Jamnia, which rather than being a council as some suggest was simply a group of Jewish Scholars who over a period of time around 90AD eliminated the apocryphal texts because Christians were using them to support the doctrine of the resurrection. Ergo, early Christians used the Apocrypha.
  • Early Christians used the apocrypha because many if not most were Greek speaking, and used the Septuagint.
  • The doctrine of the Virgin Birth derives at least in part form the Septuagint translation of Isaiah, where the Hebrew ‘young woman’ becomes the Greek ‘virgin’.
  • At the stoning of Stephen, he quotes the Septuagint talking about angels, which is why it seems different to the OT we have.
  • Protestants who reject the apocrypha state that it is not quoted by Jesus or the Apostles. I found a website – which I have now lost – which had a long list of places where Jesus and the disciples quote the apocrypha. No doubt some are a bit dodgy, but I expect some work out just as well as alleged quotes of the remainder of the OT.
  • The Council of Carthage, which most Protestants would cite as the agreement of the canon, included the Septuagint and hence the apocrypha.
  • Jesus condemned the Saducees for not believeing in resurrection because they didn’t know the scriptures. As said above, the Apocrypha supports resurrection, so I speculate this is what jesus was talking about.
  • Moving on to Luther, he believes in Sola Scriptura, but wants to be fairly selective about which Scriptures he is ‘sola’ about. He tries to get rid of those he feels support Roman Catholic doctrines such as James (and even Esther, which I would have thought was fairly innocuous) and is more successful with the apocrypha.
  • Early versions of the King James Bible included it, and it was only dropped in the late 19th century.

So, my conclusion is that we should in fact include the Apocrypha. In view of its disputed status, we should be cautious about basing doctrines on it that we can’t substantiate elsewhere in Scripture, but that does not mean we can’t do it at all.

So, as a confirmed Prod, what am I going to do about the apocryphal verses that support the RC doctrines that I despise?

16th Century Replayed

I have just been hauled over the coals by the Catholic lady in my workplace fellowship. You may recall a few posts ago, I discussed her views on praying to saints. Well, apparently she took offence at me because I was too forceful, appeared to be trying to convert her, and kept quoting the Bible when she couldn’t respond in those terms because as she herself says Catholics don’t study the Bible. She also took the opportunity to assert her church’s position about tradition being equal or superior to Scripture, and that they are the oldest church so they are right.


I hold my hand up to the accusations of coming on too strong etc. I am passionate about what I believe, and I believe it is right….obviously if I didn’t believe it was right I wouldn’t believe it.

And yes, I do want to ‘convert’ people – if I believe that what I believe is right then obviously I want to convince them that that is so.

But I don’t want to upset people. I don’t want to browbeat them into submission, or leave hem stewing in anger over the Christmas holidays. I want them to hit me back! I want them to tell me why I am wrong, to challenge my assumptions, to show me scriptures I have missed, to show how my tradition is of less value than theirs. I expect them to treat me the way I treat them.

The trouble is, in any sphere of communication, although both people may be speaking English they may still be speaking a different language. In this case, I can quote Scripture at her till I am blue in the face, and she won’t budge an inch. She can quote tradition at me till she is blue in the face, but I only regard it as interesting and informative not authoritative – full of blunders as it is – and I won’t budge an inch.

So I can only pray for the Holy Spirit to illuminate us – to take from tradition what is right and good, and to understand the Scriptures and how they apply to us. To know what is worth mutual excommunication, and to know what is just diversity within the kingdom. For me particularly, in my role as a Licensed Reader and hence a recognised Teacher, to know how to go about that Teaching without being obnoxious about it.

Friday, January 4

Sex leads to Virgin Birth

I think I am having a Eureka moment, but it’s still a bit vague and hasn’t quite crystallised yet.

Sam Norton has been talking about the virgin birth. Kyle Potter has been talking about marriage and this has led to a wider debate on sexuality in the comments. Martin Hallett has been talking to me about ‘one flesh’ as a divine mystery.

Martin says that the orgasm is a celebration of the creative act of God. From this conversation I have concluded that the primary function of sexuality is for relationship/procreation. I don’t place them in any order or make too great a distinction between them, and yet they can exist independently. You can relate to your sexual partner without procreation, to can have a baby without the parents being in relationship. Independently, they are in their own way expressions of the image of God but the fullest image of him is where they come together. [dare I say….cum together?] So man and woman become one flesh, in relationship, in the jigsawing-together of their bodies, but equally in the creation of a new life that combines theirs.

So, how do we view the virgin birth through this vision of sexuality?

Sexual reproduction creates a NEW human who is a combined version of the parents; a whole that is more than the sum of the halves; a whole in which the halves cannot be distinguished.

So, if Christ’s conception was a sexual one his person would be a NEW human, not the pre-existing ‘Word-Son’ of God through whom the universe was created.

And, if Christ’s conception was a sexual one his person would be part Mary, part A.N. Other; a whole that is more than the sum of the halves; a whole in which the halves cannot be distinguished. Yet our knowledge of Christ through the scriptures and the church fathers and the creeds is that Christ is part human and part divine; a whole that is more than the sum of the halves; a whole in which the halves cannot be distinguished. If Christ was born of a one-flesh human union, then he was fully human, and only fully human. He was a new creation, not an incarnation. There is no way for him to become Divine.

It is because of ‘one flesh’ union that each child is a celebration of the image of the creator god. It is about creation of something new, not incarnation of something old.

It is because of ‘one-flesh’ that virgin birth is necessary, for Christ was not a new creation.

It is because of ‘one-flesh’ that for Christ to be divine his origin must be divine, not human.

It is because of ‘one-flesh’ that Christ’s conception was not sexual, but incarnational.

It is because of ‘one-flesh’ that we must so jealously guard and carefully cultivate our relationships, our actions, our theology of marriage, our theology of contraception, our theology of divorce, our theology of homosexuality, and our church practices on these issues.

It is because of ‘one-flesh’ that our sexuality is the image of God – three in one, diversity within unity of relationship and of substance; diversity and unity within relationship and substance; diversity and unity in relationship creating substance.

It is because of ‘one-flesh’ that the contrast of virgin birth is so vivid and so dramatic and so important.

It is only by understanding ‘one-flesh’ that we can understand virgin birth.


(maybe the Lord is indeed calling me to become a Roman Catholic!)

Thursday, January 3

Remarriage after Divorce

Vindicated has an interesting point to make on remarriage after divorce. Together with scathing comments on our casual acceptance of serial monogamy amongst Christians, he asks if we are going to be strict against gay marriage should we not be equally strict against remarriage after divorce?

A point well made. Christians are adept at holding double standards.

I believe the biblical pattern is a choice of celibacy or lifelong heterosexual monogamy. Homosexual acts are never described in any positive way. Celibacy is commended as the path best suited to the service of Christ. Those unable to embrace celibacy are permitted to marry, and this is always described in a heterosexual context.

So, what when it goes wrong?

Moses permitted divorce. This should be read in the context of arranged marriages, and we should be cautious about how we apply it to a Western romantic marriage. It was not there for when they stopped feeling gooey, it was primarily a remedy for a breach of the arranged marriage contract. (see the story of Mary and Joseph)

Jesus explains that this provision was not part of God’s desired plan – it was a pragmatic response to the hardness of hearts of the men. God hates divorce.

Jesus also rejected the notion that you can legitimise adultery by legally divorcing your wife so that you can legally marry your mistress – it may be legal but it is still immoral. But note that remarriage after divorce was permitted in the law, otherwise Jesus would not have been able to make this comment. I don’t think Jesus is rejecting remarriage per se. I think he is saying you can’t divorce with the intention of remarriage. And when he makes the exception – “except for some uncleaness”, I think he is saying that if your partner has been unfaithful then you are permitted to remarry.

This covers the case where a partner wants to use divorce to legitimise adultery [no you can’t] and the case where adultery has already occurred and the innocent party is permitted to remarry. But what of the case where a marriage has simply broken down? I think divorce is permitted, but not remarriage. An example is in Corinthians – if one half of a pagan couple is converted and the pagan divorces the Christian, so be it, but the person is not free to remarry until the pagan dies. And I think we should enforce this just as strictly as our anti-gay-marriage stance. I used to think that if a reasonable time passed and the divorcee met a new person not connected with the original divorce, and was not simply on the rebound, then marriage would be permitted, but I have moved away from that view.

That’s what I think, and because I think it, it must be true because I am always right, by definition. Honest, guv.

But what do we do now that we do have remarried couples from cases where there has been no adultery?

If gay civil partners came to join my church, for their membership to be meaningful I would feel they should separate, and if that us unacceptable to them they should go to a church with different doctrines. Should we equally ask remarried people to separate? Ezra made the people who had wrongly married pagans to divorce them. On the other hand, David was permitted to continue with Bathsheba, even though his marriage to her was effectively adulterous, and she was blessed by God with inclusion in the genealogy of Christ. I read somewhere that as soon as you consummate your marriage to a previously divorced person, the act breaks the bond with the former partner and forms a new bond with the new partner. I don’t like that approach, though I can see where it is coming from.

It seems to me that the question is all about ‘One flesh’. One flesh is not simply about penetration, though that is essential, or about the exchange of ‘seed’, though that is essential, or about having a baby, though that is the fullest expression of it. ‘One flesh’ is about the unity of the two halves – the reunion of Adam and his rib. It is also about Christ and the church. These illustrations for me exclude homosexual relationships. [if I go to the hardware store and there is a box of electric plugs and a box of electric sockets, I can choose what I want from the boxes but I only get a flow of electricity if I put the plugs into the sockets and they are connected to the mains and to the lamp/machinery – that is the only way they fulfil their designed functions - if i put plugs together or sockets together nothing happens even if they are wired up - it's not what they were made for.]

Lifelong heterosexual monogamy is the fulfilment of ‘one flesh’ Anything else damages ‘one flesh’. Which is why Paul will not take the members of Christ and become one flesh with a prostitute. Pre marital sex, extra marital sex, polygamous sex, serial monogamous sex, all mess up the ‘one flesh’.

But Christ is pragmatic. Not that he compromises, but that he understands sin, and is not thwarted by it. In Christ there is healing. In Christ, the wounds to the flesh are restored.

Abraham the friend of God, had Sarah, Hagar and Keturah. Israel, the prince with God, had four wives. David, the man after God’s own heart, had six wives. Rahab the prostitute and adulterous Bathsheba are ancestors of Christ. So is Tamar, through her entrapment of her father in law.

So this is my verdict.

Heterosexual relationships, even broken and sinful ones such as remarriage after a non-qualifying divorce, can be redeemed, can be blessed, and can somehow reflect a healed and restored ‘one flesh’, whereas homosexual ones cannot because they are do not meet the intention of 'one flesh'. Find me one place in scripture where a sexual same-sex relationship is blessed in any way, and I will review this verdict.

And so I do not find any hypocrisy or inconsistency in remarrying [some] divorcees but not homosexuals, or in pragmatically accepting imperfect heterosexual marriages but not gay ones.

But let us apply these theoretical theological viewpoints at all times with love, compassion, and empathy. We should not dilute the truth, neither should we beat people with it.

Injustice against pro-life activists

The following link freerepublic describes an incident in which a pro-life protester was assaulted and left unconcious. Police attending the scene allowed the assailant to walk away, and the press was silent.

Now, knowing the tension that surrounds this type of protest, which in my view is counterproductive and provakative, I don't wish to condemn the assailant. I might well have acted the same way in those circumstances. But at the end of the article it asks the question - if it had been the other way round, ie had the pro-lifer assaulted the pro-choicer, would he also have been allowed to walk away in the same way? I doubt it very much. Similarly, the story did not reach the media. But had it been the other way round, I bet you would have heard of it!

So, lets have some wisdom here.

Pro-life activists should not act in this provokative way, but equally the police and the media should act fairly and in a way that does not leave the pro-lifers with no better way to express their views.

Wednesday, January 2

Evolution and Christianity

Which is the true church?

Rome claims this title, citing direct decent through an unbroken line of popes (unbroken except for the breaks, that is) descended from Peter.

Ireneaus introduced the idea of apostolic succession, but which church does not claim descent from the apostles?

Which church reflects what the Apostles taught? Well, the truth is, none of them do – they all err in one way or another.

Why have I written this under the title “Christianity and Evolution”? Well, while many of us are busy trying to prove that evolution is false; my hypothesis is that the church itself illustrates evolution.

In evolutionary theory, you start with one animal. Genetic mutations occur, and they result in one of the following:

The DNA self-repairs
The mutation is harmful and the animal dies
The mutation is inconsequential
The mutation gives the animal a slight advantage over others.

In the latter cases, the mutated animal can breed with other similar animals nearby, but not those beyond a barrier, say the sea. So each side of the barrier, different mutations replicate themselves and are compounded by subsequent mutations. The mutated animals become different species, no longer able to interbreed. Yet they both have the common ancestor and share its characteristics.

On the other hand the church is a single united body…as if! There was one single church at the beginning. But mutations have occurred – doctrines have been misconstrued, the state and politics has become involved, regional and cultural differences have influenced, bishops have allowed power to sway their thoughts…and so the ‘church’ has mutated. In some areas those mutations have been divergent. The Copts were separated very early on over minute differences in Trinitarian explanations, the Nestorians thought that ‘theotokos’ was a misleading title, and Orthodoxy split from Rome over the source of the spirit.

It might seem that these are branches of the metaphorical tree are coming off a vertical Roman trunk, but if we step back and examine the tree more honestly we find that the Rome is neither vertical nor a trunk. It is just one of the branches. And Luther sitting in that branch looked at the root and saw how far away he was, and set off as a new branch back towards the centre. But many twigs have come off him.

Some of these mutations of doctrine and practice, and splits, heal themselves. Others are self-destructive and lead to short lived churches, dead stumps on the tree. Others seem to have no effect on the health of the church in question, but mark denominational differences. And still others give rise to flourishing churches that dominate for their season.

Now I’m mixing my metaphors of a real tree and an evolutionary tree, but do you see where I am heading? Poodles, wolves and foxes are all the same family, different but all ‘dogs’. Moggies, lions, tigers and leopards are all cats, with a common ancestor – noen can say that they are the original cat. Rome, Orthodoxy, Lutherans, Copts, Baptists, Anglicans, and even those lunatic fringe charismatics, and the gay-ordainers and the gay-excommunicators, are all branches of the same tree, all expressions of the same true apostolic church. I can suggest that there are some branches that I would like to see pruned off, many that are growing in completely the opposite direction to what I think best, but that is not for me to decide. I can separate and grow in a different direction, but I must remain in the vine, which is Christ.

I shall have to change my name to “Captain Mixed-Metaphor”, but I hope you see what I mean. Separate from those you disagree with, grow in the opposite direction, but retain the unity of the common root and the common sap.

And coming back to evolution, if we can see it happen in the church, why not in the rest of God’s creation?

Paris and Rouen Mini-Cruise, and Santa-phobia

We took the kids abroad for the second time in their lives this Christmas.

My wife saw a ‘mini-cruise’ advertised in the local paper, at just £99 per person, and we booked up. So that was their present, instead of loads of toys that would break on teh first day.

We boarded the cruise ship (well let’s be honest, it was a cross-channel ferry) on Christmas eve, sailed to France overnight. On Christmas morning it continued up the river Seine to Rouen there was a shuttle bus into the town centre, but everything was closed. The next day after sleeping in our cabins we had a coach trip to Paris which took us to all the major sites before releasing us near Opera. We took the kids on the metro to Sacre Couer, fed them crepes, and dodged the hoards trying to sell us trinkets and friendship breacelets before returning to the ship to sail home overnight.

The on-board entertainment was very good, with live bands, communal carol singing on Christmas day, and so on. My 7 year old boy became known as the one person who would always dance vigorously whatever the song.

The highlight for me was when the kids powers of persuasion overcame my cynicism and Santa-phobia, and we went to the room just in time for them to call out my children’s names, and each one of them was given a good quality age and gender appropriate toy. My Santa-phobia remains strong (He is a vague and misleading South European Christian myth mixed with a North European pagan winter god and coke advert who teaches a doctrine of salvation by works while rewarding the rich more than the poor and also frightening small children along the way, but my main objection is that he displaces Christ as the object of society's affection), but I felt that the tour operators had gone out of their way to give us a good time, and felt really pampered.